From the 1885 History of Steuben County, Indiana

pages 845-847



John W. Thomas, merchant and Postmaster, Hamilton, Ind., was born in Wayne County, Ohio, March 1, 1830, a son of Rev. Jonathan and Elizabeth (Beacom) Thomas.  He was reared by his grandfather, Michael Thomas, and given a good education.  At the early age of fifteen years he began teaching in connection with attending school.  When twenty years of age he left school and went to California by the overland route and the winter following went to Portland, Ore., then a small village in the woods, and taught the only school there at a salary of $75 a month.  In the spring of 1851 he returned to California and located at Yreka, a mining village, and remained two years, teaching a select school in the winters of 1853 and 1855.  In the winter of 1855 he was elected Assessor of Siskiyou County and served two years, and in 1857 was a mining overseer and Deputy Sheriff.  In the winter of 1858-'9 he returned home and in the spring of 1860 became established with his brother-in-law, John Holt, in the mercantile business at Richland Center.  The following fall he sold his interest and engaged in farming.  He was married Sept. 2, 1860, to Juliet Benedict, who died Sept. 2, 1861, leaving an infant daughter fifteen days old, which died six months later.  Mr. Thomas then left his farm and taking his youngest sister, Henrietta, went to Hillsdale College, intending to complete the course.  After passing through the junior year he was obliged to leave school, and in the winter of 1863 and summer of 1864 taught at Angola.  He then sold his farm and for six years was engaged in business at Metz.  In the meantime he served as Trustee of Richland Township five years.  In 1872 he moved to Edon, Ohio, where he engaged in general merchandising, and also conducted a steam saw and grist-mill.  He continued in business seven years when reverses in business overtook him and he lost all his property, save his residence.  In 1880 he moved to Newville, DeKalb Co., Ind., and engaged in the manufacture of lumber, and in 1882 came to Hamilton and again engaged in the mercantile business, where by his genial and accommodating manner he has built up a large trade which is constantly increasing.  He is a prominent and devoted member of the Odd Fellows' order.  He was a charter member of Yreka Lodge, No. 180, and of the encampment, and held all the higher offices in each;  was also a charter member of the encampment at Angola, holding all the higher offices and representing both the lodge and encampment in the grand lodge of the State; was a charter member of the Mt. Pleasant lodge at Metz and also passed all the chairs of the Florence Lodge in Williams County, Ohio.  He was an active man in public affairs while in California.  He enlisted in the Rougue River Indian war in 1856, under Captain J. P. Goodale, and participated in several skirmishes and two general engagements, serving under General Jo Lane, United States Senator.  He was one of a force of twenty men under Lieutenant Ely, who discovered a large force of Indians at Dry Creek.  Sending two of the men to inform General Lane the eighteen held the Indians, numbering about 250, at bay four and a half hours before reinforcements came.  Fifty-two Indians were killed, and of the eighteen gallant men nine were killed and two died of wounds, Mr. Thomas and one other being the only two who were uninjured.  The Indians were followed, although with great loss to the troops, and the next day were captured, thus ending the war.  In the days of vigilant committees Mr. Thomas was active in upholding law and order.  He was married the second time in 1866 to Phoebe Everhart, who was born in Morrow County, Ohio, in 1842, daughter of James Everhart, of Richland Township.  To them have been born four children -- Zoe, Thaddeus W., Frank P. and Jonathan P.  Mr. and Mrs. Thomas are members of the Methodist Episcopal church, of which he is class-leader and is also Superintendent of the Sunday-school.



Submitted by Kim Davoli